Worried about traveling solo? In this post, I’m going to walk you through all of the things I do to help me feel safe as a solo female traveler.
The internet can be a pretty terrifying place! It also gives me a massive headache most of the time, especially as I spend most of my working hours on Social Media. But in spite of all of the fake news, graphic content, trigger warnings, and internet trolls it’s revolutionized how we travel, and in my opinion, enabling solo female travelers to feel safe as we roam the world. I think the internet has been really important for solo female travelers, if you look at the growth in the number of women traveling solo it’s no coincidence.
I know when planning I worried not only about being safe but also about making sure my family know I’m safe. So, I want to share a few thoughts on safety for all my female adventurers out there who may be feeling apprehensive about their safety on the road.
If you are traveling somewhere new do some serious research. Look at the crime statistics and check out the stats for assaults on women. When I did my hometown wasn’t much different from most of the places I was going, in a lot of cases, it was lower! Crime happens EVERYWHERE so put it into context.
Make sure to research the area you are staying and check reviews on booking.com and TripAdvisor. Look for any feedback on safety and door locks etc. Also PLEASE leave reviews for places after your stay and be HONEST.
Sign up for Government safety warnings from the UK and the US (The UK are a bit less fear-mongering I have personally found), and check out the local newspaper online (if they have one) so you can read about any local issues. There has been a lot of chat on online forums and facebook groups about areas being very unsafe and the media not reporting on it. So as well as checking the media and government advice try and connect with people who have recently been to that area or who live there. Which brings me nicely onto my next point…
This has been a game-changer for me! There are several large female-only groups on facebook dedicated to travel. One of them has over 100k members from all over the world. Things these groups are great:
- If you want information about a place you are going to, just search or post asking women who have been there.
- Feeling lonely? No one to hang out with? Post asking if anyone is in the area. I have seen so many of these posts and I’ve yet to see anyone not find a friend.
- Lost someone? Or had an accident and need help? A number of missing people or SOS calls that have been put to the group and people have jumped into action is just incredible! I remember a girl in Israel putting out an SOS and within an hour another girl had come and got her out of a bad situation. They posted a selfie the next day at the dead sea having a great time. There is almost always someone close by who can respond to your SOS.
- Want to vent or share some good news (travel-related)? Do it in here- although be warned there are trolls even in wonderful groups like these! Join the groups and then before you post asking questions do a search of the group to check what people have been posting about it. More than likely someone will have already asked the questions that you have.
Knowing that there are over 100k girls out there linked to this group who could potentially help me out if I ever got into a bad situation is such an amazing thing. I am truly thankful it exists!
Book Your Accommodation
Book at least your first night in a new place so you have somewhere to rest and get yourself together once you have arrived. Nothing worse than arriving in a new place and pounding the pavement with your backpack looking for a good place to stay. I normally only book one night as I seem to have a knack for booking accommodation that is miles away from where I actually want to be! So I book my first night so I can dump my bag, shower and then go exploring and find the best place to stay. I have written a post and an ebook to help you with this.
Going somewhere new? Or somewhere that could be a bit risky, a date for example. Then make sure you send your drop pin location to your person or persons whoever they are. That way they know your exact location. ALWAYS let someone know where you are. A lot of my social media is automated so I always check in with family regularly so they know I’m ok as my online presence doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve been online.
I don’t even know what I did before this app, make sure you have it on your phone. To prevent looking like a target when trying to find somewhere new put your headphones in and your phone away. If you need to take a look at your phone, stop and do so being cautious of where you are stopping. If you are walking down the road staring at your phone you aren’t taking in your surroundings and potentially vulnerable. Did you know you can also use this app offline? Well, you can. Simply go to your settings click on offline areas and download your area.
Trust Your Intuition
You know that feeling you get that something isn’t quite right, or something bad is going to happen. Well, trust it. If you feel at all uncomfortable about something then don’t do it. Simple.
I always make sure I know how I’m getting from the airport to my accommodation. ALWAYS. As part of your research make sure this is a priority. If public transport is easy and I’m on my own I always use it. Sometimes if I’m traveling with others or it’s difficult to get to where I want to go on public transport I get a taxi. That said in Thailand the cheapest way was actually to book a private transfer car which I did online.
Make sure you know the following:
- Where you need to go for the train/ bus or taxi
- Know how much it will cost you. Especially if you are using a taxi to avoid paying too much.
- Know where you are going to and have a phone number of your accommodation or host if you think it could be difficult to find. That way the taxi driver can call for directions.
Traveling around the area you are staying is a different matter. As part of your research make sure you check how safe the taxis are for women, especially at night time. Check if walking at night is safe and what the public transport is like. This varies massively from place to place. For example, in many South American countries it’s not advisable for a woman to get a taxi at night alone but in Europe, it’s pretty safe. In Guatemala, public transport is mostly very safe during the day (night time is different) but in Guatemala City, it is not safe for tourists to use the red line public transport route due the constant crime on the buses.
Top transport safety tips
- Take photos of the taxi registration or license (always use a licensed one). If you can get one of the drivers sneakily do it.
- If you have to store your main bag somewhere away from you then make sure you have all of your important (and expensive) things on you.
- Avoid traveling alone at night if you can help it.
Before you arrive in a new place make sure you know all of the emergency numbers for that country, or locality, including the embassy for your country. Dig a little deeper if you are traveling in a country who are known to have issues with the police or government as sometimes it’s better to go directly to your embassy.
Copies of Important Documents
Keep at least 2 copies of your passport and anything else important in different places to your passport! I also have a scan of my driver’s license, passport and all of my vaccinations in the cloud and on my google drive.
Watch Your Drinks
As a rule, I’m very, very careful with alcohol abroad. If I drink, I tend to do it early on and don’t stay out very late, unless I’m in a very safe area. I rarely get drunk as alcohol can cloud your judgment and make you more vulnerable. It’s really common to spike drinks in certain places so look out for that when doing your research.
I’m 34 so 24/7 partying isn’t high on my agenda! I prefer a few beers and an early night! When I do let my hair down and party I make sure I’m 100% comfortable in my environment and trust who I’m with. I know it’s sad to have to worry so much about these things and at the end of the day you can do all of the above and something bad can still happen. To say a woman could do more to prevent it is victim-blaming and always wrong. Being cautious about alcohol and my environment helps me personally to feel a bit safer.
Things To Take With You
There are a few cheap and cheerful items that don’t take up much room in my bag and help make me feel a bit safer:
- A door wedge – This was a tip I got from Glam Trekker and I love it! If you are feeling a bit unsafe at night in your hostel or hotel room put it under the door to wedge it shut from the inside. This will help prevent (or at least make it difficult) for someone to enter.
- A whistle – Costs $1 it’s light and loud. I just keep it in my bag in case of an emergency and I need to make a loud noise!
- Mini spray – I don’t really like the idea of carrying pepper spray so I try and keep a mini spray of some kind, like hairspray or deodorant, that can double up.
To Sum Up
Solo travel can be seriously empowering and liberating but it can also make you feel pretty vulnerable at times. That said, I often felt just as vulnerable in my own country as I do traveling so I never let fear stop me doing something. These things just help me feel that bit safer and also help my family to not worry so much about me. I really hope you have found this post useful? If you have any advice that you think people should know about I’d love to hear it!
I’m also going to be posting a collaborative post with safety advice from travelers around the world (male and female). If you have a story or tip you would like to share please drop me an email!
Sunday 12th of February 2017
These are some really good tips here. Being a guy, some of these are nice general tips too (especially the door wedge one! I'm super paranoid with my camera gear!). Most importantly, they were super helpful tips to help women be safer and more prepared for anything that happens. My fiancee pretty much only travels with me, but there's a lot of tips that would be very useful for us.
Sunday 12th of February 2017
I like the door stopper idea! My family is worried about me traveling by myself but, it is comforting to them to have my itineraries and contacts to people I stay with.
Friday 10th of February 2017
Great tips and information as this in very important for solo female travelers. When my husband and I traveled to Europe last summer we actually did a few of your tips. Yes I was with a man, but it is still an unsafe world sometimes and you can never be sure (plus our parents were nervous for us). We couch surfed and stayed with quite a few hosts and had to give our parents their name, phone number, address and dates for when we were there!!! We stayed with at least a dozen people and thankfully stayed safe and only had one bad encounter. Again great post and a very important one,
Friday 10th of February 2017
Thanks for this post! I've been on the road for going on 6 years. So I don't really think about these things anymore. But it's good to give the young'uns some extra confindence to come out here and join us on the road :-)
Happy continued travels! C
Wednesday 8th of February 2017
Never travelled solo but some of these tips can be very helpful even if its a couple like us travelling together. Instincts are a very important and although most of the tips you've mentioned are commonly known, its funny how most of us do not really use them despite its obvious advantages for our own safety.